- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A conservative political action committee Tuesday vowed to pour money into primary challenges against any Republican who votes for President Obama’s economic rescue package.

“Republican senators are on notice,” said Scott Wheeler, executive director of the National Republican Trust PAC (NRT). “If they support the stimulus package, we will make sure every voter in their state knows how they tried to further bankrupt voters in an already bad economy.”

He said the American people “don’t want this trillion-dollar political payoff that will just line the pockets of nongovernmental organizations who supported Obama in the election.”

The Senate’s $838 billion stimulus bill passed Tuesday, thanks to support from three Republicans: Sens. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe, both of Maine.

Their support, after the bill was trimmed by about $100 billion, enabled Democrats to defeat Republicans’ efforts Monday to block the massive package, delivering a critical victory for Mr. Obama.

Mr. Wheeler said the three centrist Republicans would be held accountable. He singled out Mr. Specter for “mortgaging the future of Pennsylvania´s children and grandchildren.”

Mr. Specter is the only one of the three who is up for re-election in 2010.

But Mr. Specter’s support for the bill was credited, in part, to the need to fortify his standing with increasingly liberal Pennsylvania voters in anticipation of a tough primary and general election race.

The senator said he is well aware fallout from his vote could impact his primary run.

“Those thoughts have not escaped my attention,” he recently told reporters on Capitol Hill. “I believe that my duty is to follow my conscience and vote what I think is in the best interest of the country. And the political risks will have to abide.”

Miss Collins was just re-elected and doesn’t face a challenge for six years.

Mrs. Snowe, who is not up for re-election until 2012, is confident that Maine voters know she is representing their interests, said Snowe spokesman John Gentzel.

“She won 75 percent of the vote last time,” he said. “She represents the people of Maine, and they seem to like her up there.”

He said Mrs. Snowe’s vote for the compromise bill does not ensure her support of the final legislation, which must reconcile the Senate bill and the House-passed $819 billion version.

The conference to hammer out differences between the two bills, most notably spending on education and school construction that was cut from the Senate version, began Tuesday after the Senate package passed in a 61-37 vote.

Most Republicans say the bill is rife with scattershot spending that will create permanent new government programs, won’t help the beleaguered U.S. economy and risks undercutting a recovery by driving up federal debt. That view, Mr. Obama says, ignores the economic catastrophe at hand and the fact, he says, that government is the only thing left to pump money into the marketplace.

Democratic leaders have set a Friday deadline to pass the final conference committee report and deliver it to Mr. Obama’s desk.

“If this conference report comes back and does not focus on job creation and helping the displaced, she will not support it,” Mr. Gentzel said of Mrs. Snowe.

The NRT, which raises money for political campaigns independently of the Republican Party, promotes candidates who support conservative values including limited government, lower taxes, strong national defense and free-market economics.

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